On a crisp and hazy Seattle afternoon, with all the momentum sapped from the fledgling Seahawk offense, running back Marshawn Lynch pulled off the most spectacular run of his career exactly when his team had to have it.
It was a moment that will outlive this season and this team. A run that grandfathers will share with grandsons three decades from now.
Plays like this are why fans keep plunking down 80 bucks for a ticket, that earns them the right to sit four hours outside in the freezing cold on January afternoons.
Oh sure there were other reasons why a defending champ would fall to a hapless Seattle team. New Orleans was missing starting running backs Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas, and Reggie Bush was carted off the field when his team needed him most.
NBC’s crack announcing team of Tom Hammond and Mike Mayock spent most of the first quarter apologizing to skeptical east coast viewers while assuring them that the Seahawks really were not all that bad. If they played spectacularly well and absolutely nothing went wrong, they might even have a chance to lose by only a couple touchdowns.
And when New Orleans jumped out to a quick ten point first quarter lead, all was going as planned. In fact nearly everybody, fans and enemies alike, seemed resigned to an afternoon where a bad Seahawk team would capitulate like a torpedoed Frigate, like they had done so many times before.
Three quarters later after the game, a jubilant Pete Carroll declared “We expected to win this game.” Words that may earned him incarcerated for lunacy, had he uttered them a couple hours earlier.
Hasselbeck put together one the of most brilliant 30 minute stretches of his career.
Big plays going Seattle's way didn't hurt either.
Trailing 17-14 mid way through second quarter, Seattle had punted. New Orleans got the ball at their own 20 yard line when Julius Jones coughed it up on the first play of the drive, and the Seahawks recovered. Several Lynch runs got very little, but the Seahawks were still able to tie the game at 17 off a 29 yard field goal.
The Saints then went three and out, and after the Seahawks got to mid field on eight plays following the New Orleans punt, they were facing a 3rd & 3 with 1:23 left. Hasselbeck hit Brandon Stokley across the middle for a 47 yard touchdown pass play, which was likely the single biggest play of the game, and certainly rivaled the Lynch run for significance.
It gave the Seahawks a lead they would not surrender, and the rest of the game, the Saints played catch-up.
New Orleans was stopped at the three yard line a minute later and had to settle for a field goal ending the half, but when the Seahawks opened the third quarter with a seven play 79 yard drive, finished when Hasselbeck hit Mike Williams for a 37 yard scamper, things had changed.
Seattle was up 31-20, and from there on out the Saints were forced to throw far too often, as desperation to catch up took them out of their game plan. And when the Seahawks came right back with another long drive that ended with a 39 yard field goal, the Saints were down by two touchdowns and feeling desperate.
All that set up "The Run" later in the game, and was every bit as important, Especially when momentum had shifted back to the Saints a quarter later and New Orleans was moving the ball at will.
Clinging to a scant 34-30 lead late, Hasselbeck looked worn out and the rest of the team scared. New Orleans had scored 10 unanswered points and it seemed the next drive would easily give All-Pro Saints QB Drew Brees time enough to finish this game off.
But suddenly Seattle's defense decided to join the party, and forced New Orleans to punt from their own 19 yard line.
On the second play following the punt, Marshawn Lynch pulled off his miraculous run that would have made Moses and the God parting Red Sea jealous.
So yes the Lynch run was very important, but no more so than the drive to open the third quarter. Seattle's stellar defensive stands in-between didn't hurt either, especially when Seattle snuffed New Orleans on a 4th and 1 from their own 37 late in the third quarter.
Hasselbeck's 22 completions on 35 attempts was huge. It was Hasselbeck’s best game in several months, and proved why Pete Carroll had gone with the cagey veteran in spite of fan demands.
With coaching moves like this that turns to gold, plus enthusiasm that has Coach Carroll squealing on the sidelines like jr high cheerleaders, this team appears nutty enough to believe they can win next week too.
A scrappy talent-thin Seahawk squad emulating past USC teams after playing half the season like those jr high cheerleaders. Who saw this coming?
Lynch's run was key, but it was the play in the second and third quarters that ultimately won this game, and proved to the world that the Seattle Seahawks reaching the NFL playoffs was no fluke.